Automated Data Speeds Up 3PL Warehouse Operations

by | Aug 4, 2020 | Logistics

Third-party logistics providers (3PLs) excel at warehouse operations. They do it fast. They do it right. They are the experts. This is the service that their customers pay for. But, does part of a 3PLs’ ability to quickly fulfill orders fall on their customer’s shoulders? Yes. The speed at which a 3PL can pick, pack and ship orders is often dependent on the lead time with accurate order data that they have. Without it, even the very best 3PL is at the mercy of their customers poor data practices.

In the spring of 2020, SPS surveyed nearly 200 3PLs about how data accuracy, speed and automation impact their business. The responses were consistent across all sizes of 3PLs and all industries they serve.

Lead Times Matter

Data automation is about timing. 3PLs need the details about when orders are coming in and need to be shipped. But also important is the timing of this communication. Warehouses are busy places. Their schedules are tight and their staff hustle to keep orders on track. Advance notice from customers allows 3PLs to schedule resources more efficiently, allocate warehouse space and maintain high safety standards. By automating the flow of data, customers can ensure that their details reach and are put in motion by the 3PL quickly, and not sitting in someone’s email.

As consumers expectations for rapid fulfillment increase, 3PL speed must also increase. Advance notice may be measured in minutes or hours, not days. Any extra time is useful to a 3PL and provides the services they are equipped to deliver.

Better Data Equals More On-Time Deliveries

Retailers often measure suppliers on two key factors: on-time shipments and complete orders. One way to boost on-time deliveries is to provide 3PLs with accurate order information as early as possible, with as few changes as possible. Using EDI or another form of automation to send this data reaps benefits for all involved: the supplier, the 3PL and the retailer or consumer.

In the study, 3PLs ranked improving on-time deliveries as the top customer benefit of timely data. In their survey responses, many noted the delays that occur when data is incomplete or inaccurate. This requires their team to correct it and this takes valuable time. With today’s quick order cycles, any delays can risk shipment deadlines or mean shipping using a more expensive means to still arrive on-time.

Automated Data Speeds Up 3PL Warehouse Operations

3PL Speed Improves with Automation

Nothing makes 3PL staff smile like seeing orders ship out from the dock and waving to the driver. We all love it when our to-do list shrinks. Today’s 3PLs are doing everything they can to pick, pack and ship more orders faster than ever. Automation makes this possible. From WMS to EDI to robotics, today’s warehouses are continually advancing to speed 3PL fulfillment.

Automated data flows from customers have a direct impact on warehouse operations. 74 percent of 3PLs stated that improved automation led to faster shipments. And, 72 percent stated that complete and timely data allows them to ship faster on behalf of their customers.

What did 3PLs Have to Say about Automation?

SPS asked 3PLs what was the one thing that customers could do to help them be faster. The responses all zeroed in on timely data and/or advance notice of orders or changes.

What do 3PLs need from customers in 2020 to improve fulfillment speed?

  • Enough lead time and complete order information
  • Provide orders a day in advance
  • Minimum 48-hour notice for shipments
  • Timely data transfers
  • More advance notice for special projects/changes in scope
  • Provide order data earlier
  • More time between dropping an order and needing to ship
  • Provide order shipping and inbound product information more than 24 hours in advance

Interested in seeing what else 3PLs will be automating in 2020? Download the free research study, Automation Priorities for Third-Party Logistics Providers.

Mark O'Leary